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Home > Costs to society of problem alcohol use in Ireland.

Byrne, Sean (2010) Costs to society of problem alcohol use in Ireland. Kildare: Health Service Executive.

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Alcohol consumption in Ireland doubled between 1970 and 2003, one the largest increases in the world during that period. This increase occurred over a period when alcohol consumption was falling in most developed countries. Though consumption has fallen slightly since 2003, Irish consumption at 13.4 litres of pure alcohol per person is the second highest in the OECD.

Ireland also has one of the highest levels of underage drinking in the developed world and one of the worst records for binge drinking. The increase in alcohol consumption has caused a commensurate increase in alcohol related harms in Irish society. These are comprehensively documented in Alcohol Related Harms in Ireland (Hope, 2008) which shows an alarming increase in alcohol related accidents and illnesses, alcohol related crime, alcohol related domestic abuse and alcohol related absences from work.

All of these harms impose significant costs on Irish society in addition to the costs borne by the drinkers themselves. The main costs are the additional costs imposed on the health care system, the criminal justice system and the costs of road accidents. Since the 1970s most developed countries have published estimates of the costs of alcohol related harms. A preliminary estimate of €2 billion as the total cost to society of alcohol related harm in Ireland, based on the limited data available at the time, was published in the report of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol in 2004. Since the publication of that report, more data, particularly on alcohol related illnesses has become available.

The estimates in this report are based on the methods used in similar reports from other developed countries, particularly the reports for England and Wales and for Scotland and Northern Ireland. The estimated overall cost to Irish society of problem alcohol use is €3.7 billion in 2007.

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